Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Serious' Issues to Be Disclosed in Pension Audit; Findings of $85,000 Report to Be Released at Wednesday Press Event

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Serious' Issues to Be Disclosed in Pension Audit; Findings of $85,000 Report to Be Released at Wednesday Press Event

Article excerpt

Byline: Eileen Kelley

The result of a long-awaited forensic audit of the troubled Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund is coming to an end.

At least Part I is.

City Councilman Bill Gulliford will hold a 1 p.m. news conference in the city's rotunda on Wednesday to announce the findings.

The findings of the $85,000 audit are expected to be stinging.

"The findings raise serious questions about the management of the pension fund," said auditor Edward "Ted" Siedle of Benchmark Financial Services. "These serious questions should demand a serious response."

Siedle will be attending the news conference.

For years members of the public have called for a forensic audit of the fund and for years those calls have been unheeded. All the while concerns about the management and oversight of the badly funded pension fund were mounting.

Siedle got the go-ahead several months ago to do a deep dive into the fund.

He said dealing with the pension fund - a public entity - to acquire public records has been troubling.

"There's a profound lack of transparency," said Siedle.

Many documents Siedle asked for were denied.

Still, Siedle forged ahead, producing an audit that is more than 140 pages.

"When you are doing a forensic audit of a public pension and you are seeking public records, theoretically you would think the flow of information would do smoothly," said Siedle. "There should be no controversy over access to information."

And yet there was.

John Keane, the recently retired executive director of the fund who is working with the fund as a consultant presumably until his replacement is hired, told his board of trustees recently that he produced all documents that were asked of him.

Not so, said Siedle.

At that same trustee meeting, Larry Schmitt, the chairman of the board of trustees reassured the rest of the board that Siedle was told he was free to come up to the pension fund and look for the records himself.

"That's not how its works," said Gulliford.

SUBPOENA POWER

On Oct. 5, a City Council committee voted to use the city's rarely used subpoena power to demand that Keane and his South Florida attorney produce the documents. …

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